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I’ll be a guest on TWiT’s TNT tonight

September 17th, 2012 by Raj

For those following my pseudo media “career” you’ll be jumping for joy to know that I’ll be appearing on the TWiT network’s “Tech News Today” (TNT) show for their Monday episode. The recording will be streamed live here in Australia early tomorrow morning, Tuesday, Sept 18th at 3am AEST.

Feel free to watch the show, if you’re awake, here: http://live.twit.tv
Or download the episode tomorrow here: http://twit.tv/show/tech-news-today

Also you can read about TWiT and my recent visit to their studio in Petaluma, California over on MacTalk at the moment here: http://www.mactalk.com.au/content/visiting-twit-studios-2575/

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Seeking closure

September 4th, 2012 by Raj

There’s nothing particularly interesting about this photo. In fact you could argue, successfully I might add, that it’s a pretty boring one taken in poor conditions of a street corner that could be in pretty much any Westernised 1st world country on the planet. But it’s not just any street corner, it wouldn’t make a great deal of sense for me to be writing about a random street corner really, although, given the right frame of mind I’m sure I could make something up.

No, this street corner is one that nearly four years ago I went to get into a cab at around midnight and turned around to have a fist put into the same time/space position that my head occupied. This of course is against the laws of physics and rather than meld together the fist burst through my glasses, shattered them causing a laceration through my left eyelid and across the lens of my, fracturing the same eye’s orbital socket and breaking my nose until the fist was no longer in threat of disrupting the time continuum and need fear the wrath of Dr. Who and other time-lords. There was some further punching and kicking and a lot of blood but you get where I’m going with it and the likelihood is that you’ve heard versions of this story from myself before so lets not repeat ourselves shall we.

Now, four years gone, I find myself returning to the scene of the crime like some badly written macabre Hollywood thief whilst visiting Seattle once more. I knew when I booked this trip that I’d be venturing to the intersection of 1st Ave & Yesler Way, I couldn’t not go! Whether that be born out of sheer curiosity or perhaps cathartic self-healing I honestly didn’t know I just felt compelled.

On Saturday morning, the third day of my four day visit, I decided it was time. It was a beautiful day, warm, cloud-free and I had no appointments at the convention until later that day so there was time to kill. It turned out that the intersection was remarkably close to the hotel I was staying, a pure coincidence as I had to hunt through old paperwork from the hospital and ambulance service to figure out which intersection it actually was that morning! Three city blocks down, two to the left and there I would be.

Walking down the hill, Starbucks in hand – yes vomit now but when in Rome, I didn’t feel anything, I was numb to the whole exercise to the point I was beginning to think it frivolous. Last November I’d won the three year legal battle against my travel insurer TID and their medical cohorts Mondial Assistance to finally pay the lovely $US25k + legal fees I’d incurred from my week’s stay and coma care and that had truly allowed me to breath for the first time since it had all happened. Now, a city block away, I questioned what else I was possibly hoping to achieve.

Rounding the apex of a dog legged 1st Ave the small park came into distinctive view. It was my reference point. That night it had all happened it was the only thing my bloodied vision had been able to focus and hold on to. The look of hundreds of Halloween revellers passing through gardened archways to stare and scream at what unfurled directly opposite, over the road.

The park’s intersectional neighbours drew a complete blank, they may very well have been there four years ago they may not have, but today they were Starbucks, a small cafe and finally a toy store called “Magic Mouse Toys”, which sat on the corner I was attacked, decorated by two street bins, one of which for recycling that I remembered grasping at when I fell to the ground and was now crossing the road to inspect more closely.

I knew I’d stood in this exact position years before, I knew it to be where the horror of the past four years had been birthed but even at this point it felt numbly distant. Then, as if God himself had been sharing a joke with Freud the siren started. My head rose and stared Northwards down Yesler Way towards the drowning tones of an emergency vehicle. The noise from the siren continued to grow in volume until I spotted the distinctive boxed shape belonging to an American ambulance snaking its way through Saturday morning traffic towards me. I stopped breathing. The trees in the park wobbled in my vision as tears streamed down my face and distorted the light they reflected into my eyes. I could hear the people yelling and screaming from four years ago like I’d been sucked back in time like on some CSI/NCIS/Law & Order type TV show. The ambulance’s engine grew louder as its sirens pierced my thoughts and then… it drove straight by. It floored it through the green light of the intersection and continued on its way but it had done it’s job, for me anyway.

I retreated to the very same stone steps my assailants had launched their cowardly attack from and composed myself. The vision of yesterday’s world washed away and the odd looks I’d attracted from today’s bystanders were quickly dismissed as they went on with their lives, classifying somewhere between crazy and delusional but not of their concern or danger. I pulled out the notebook I’d been using for notes at convention interviews and began to sketch out the intersection in order to remember it better perhaps? Who knows? It served a purpose if only to allow me to rationalise me sitting on a cold stairway to a padlocked door.

No one else could’ve understood what this place meant to me, nor should they have. It was just so surreal for me to be in such a placid and infinitesimally insignificant place to all the people passing by yet mean so much to me. That said a lot of you reading this know exactly what this place means to me and I’m forever thankful to all of you. You know who you are, you all helped tremendously and I’m blessed with such amazing family and friends. Thank you.

The big question is did it actually *do* anything by going back there and the honest truth is I have no idea. I’m not a shrink, I still don’t really know why I wanted to visit it in the first place, but I did and I have and it’s done. I hear a lot of people talking about closure, generally when it comes to relationships mind you, and I think that’s what this was for me, perhaps my whole US trip was to a point? Regardless, the chapter has been undeniably closed.

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What is a Retina display

June 18th, 2012 by Raj

This article was originally written for MacTalk.
It appeared as an editorial on their home page June 18th, 2012.

“Retina display” it’s Apple’s latest buzzword that’s slowly mulling its way across their entire product line. Most recently recently bursting from its former iOS bounds and landing amid Apple’s newest MacBook Pro lineup announced just days ago at WWDC 2012. But what is exactly is a Retina display? How does it affect you as a consumer or perhaps you as a developer? Do I want one? Well in the words of Dr Deane Hutton “I’m glad you asked”…

To understand what a Retina display is we’re going to jump back to some of the basics that make up your computer’s (or phone’s, or tablet’s) display. Every screen is made up of pixels, tiny dots of light that are told what colour they should be by your computer. Thousands of these pixels line your display and together in their combination of colours create the visual imagery that you see and interact with on your screen. Where things get interesting is when we look at the density of the pixels or rather how many of them are crammed into the physical size of your screen referred to by the term “pixels per inch” (PPI).

PPI is calculated through a relatively simple little formula of which the crux is the number of pixels diagonally across your screen divided by its physical diagonal size. For example Apple’s smaller iMac which has a viewable diagonal screen size of 21.5 inches at a display resolution of 1900×1200 equates to a PPI of 102.46. Had the same display resolution been on physically smaller screen, say 15 inches diagonal the PPI would be much higher at 149.81.

Having a higher PPI means the pixels are bunched up much finer and can lead to a more crisp image to the viewer. Technology in display manufacturing has been slowly leading up to the point where now we can create displays with such a high PPI that according to Apple they are of such a high density that from a normal viewing point we can no longer see the lines between the pixels and it is this high density that Apple loosely refers to as a “Retina display”. To quote Steve Jobs at the unveiling of the iPhone 4, Apple’s first product with a Retina display:
“…there’s a magic number around 300dpi, if you hold something about 10-12 inches away from your eye, it’s the limit of the human retina to distinguish pixels.”

The original iPhone and it’s successors up until the iPhone 4 all had a resolution of 320×480 with a PPI of 163. With the launch of the iPhone 4 the resolution doubled to become 640×960, 326 PPI. The increase by exactly double is no accident either and you may have already noticed that the new MacBook Pro’s resolution is exactly double its predecessor’s too. 2880×1800 to it’s former non-retina self of 1440×900. So why is this? Well, it keep everything in proportion. For the user if you’re looking at a web page or running an app that was built using the lesser resolution the system can double everything quite easily and not ruin the ratio of the material. The downside is that as the technology begins to expand across new product lines you’ll see an almost never-ending game of catch up as developers must include larger versions of all the imagery included in their software so that it looks as it should, until that happens the software does its best to blow things up to their newly doubled size often leaving them blurry and uneasy on the eye.

For now the introduction of Retina displays into the Mac product family means more work for developers to double the size of their image assets. For the end-user, once their apps are updated they’ll enjoy a much more pleasant aesthetic experience and be able to truly reap the rewards of their wonderful display. The same goes for web developers, in a world where Retina displays become the norm the web will migrate to non-vector imagery doubled in size to accommodate these higher PPI displays. This may be a while away as Apple are technically the only people out there pushing the displays into the market at present but there are already Retina displayed imagery on a lot of websites as the iPhone & iPad take advantage of them already, accounting for the lion share of mobile traffic.

To break it down as a developer (web or app) you’ll be creating rasterized assets at double the size (and again at half if you want to do the job properly), for the end-user you’ll be complaining on Twitter and Facebook that your favourite app looks funny until you get an update. Unfortunate but true.

Lastly let’s all understand that “Retina display” is nothing more than an Apple trademarked name of higher pixel density displayed. It is NOT an industry standard nor patent of technology held by Apple, it’s a marketing term. Other computer manufacturers such as Dell or HP may not have a competing displays at this point but if they did they don’t have to create it to the same standard as Apple nor would they call it “Retina display”.

References:

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B&o Play Beolit 12 review

April 27th, 2012 by Raj

For those of you interested in my forever sporadic journalistic endeavours then you’ll be gleeful to hear my review of Bang & Olufsen’s new B&o Play product the “Beolit 12″ is available for your eyes to consume over on MacTalk. An excerpt of said article is here found below to tempt you to read more…

Its relatively small & lightweight but stocky in stature and had I not already mentioned it was a speaker you might be asking yourself “What is it?”, the design not giving a lot away to its function yet screaming Bang & Olufsen from its minimalistic pore ridden facade. At first I have to admit I found the whole thing a little ghastly but in the month it’s sat pride of place in my lounge room the more I’ve fallen in love with its simplicity and come to appreciate the thought put in to the design.

If you’d like to read more may I suggest you go here.
For the photographic kind there are lots of lovely images of the Beolit 12 here.

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